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Ad production plans include layoffs

Gannettoid.com | news@gannettoid.com | Posted: Aug. 17, 2009 • Morning report

Details are slowly emerging from the meeting Gannett held last Monday and Tuesday in Des Moines.

The meeting was to discuss consolidating ad production across Gannett. The company is planning a transition similar to what it did when consolidating photo toning to a regional toning center (RTC) in Des Moines, first in Des Moines and later expanding to Indianapolis

Gannett is planning on having regional ad-building centers in Des Moines and Indianapolis, likely to capitalize on the infrastructure already in place for the RTCs at those facilities.

While sources from both Gannett's corporate offices and papers in the company's community publishing division have confirmed previous details about the meeting to Gannettoid.com, nobody with the company has publicly confirmed anything, including that the meeting even took place.

Related reports: Aug. 3 | Aug. 10 | Aug. 11 | Aug. 27

Austin Ryan, who is Gannett's vice president of production and led the transition to RTC, opened the meeting. Ryan outlined the plan to consolidate ad production and was followed by Toni Humphreys, Gannett's director of RTC, and a presentation by Database Publishing Systems, Inc. (DPS), which develops AdTracker, an ad tracking system.

Ryan was one of nearly a dozen employees from corporate in attendance. Eight to 10 employees representing Gannett's newspaper groups, network analysts and other employees from Gannett's Maryland Operations Center (MOC), AS/400 experts and various managers were also at the meeting.

The AS/400 is the mainframe-like computer used by Gannett for business functions. It handles advertising order entry and billing and circulation functions. The MOC handles all networking between sites and houses the Microsoft Exchange e-mail servers as well as most of the company's hosted systems. DPS’ Ad Tracker is the system used in more than 50 Gannett newspapers to track and produce advertisements.

This change in ad production will lead to more layoffs. People at the meeting were told a "few" people would remain employed in ad production positions at each newspaper to at least traffic material and make last-minute corrections.

The first site is scheduled to go live in January 2010 and will most likely be a Metro-class newspaper.

It is believed the system’s design and most of its operational aspects have already been determined. While there are some details to be worked out, both Gannett's I.T. staff and DPS are believed to have begun working on the system. 

The thought of a regional ad-building center was at least first mentioned at Gannett in October 2007 with a note outlining improvements made to DPS' programs. Planning for the project in its current state was under way by late 2008.

Ryan leads Gannett's press plant consolidations and was the vice president of production at The Des Moines Register from 1993-2004, according to this LinkedIn profile. In 2008, Ryan was named Gannett's corporate staffer of the year at the company's annual employee awards ceremony.

Gannett is not the only media company looking into such ad production consolidation. McClatchy currently outsources its ad production, but an industry source told Gannettoid.com the company is unhappy with its current arrangement.

McClatchy is based in Sacramento, Calif., and owns 30 daily newspapers in 29 markets, including The Miami Herald, The Kansas City Star, The Charlotte Observer, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Sacramento Bee. The company has set up an internal task force to examine the feasibility of a move similar to what Gannett is doing.

Lee Enterprises is said by the source to be considering a similar move. Lee, which owns the St. Louis Dispatch, is based in Davenport, Iowa, and has 49 daily newspapers and ownership interests in four others.

Related reports: Aug. 3 | Aug. 10 | Aug. 11 | Aug. 27
Aug. 20: Ad centers lead to cuts, big savings

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